Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

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Hillary Clinton address the 2016 SEIU international convention at Detroit's Cobo Center.
SEIU / via Twitter

Hillary Clinton made her second stop in Detroit this month, addressing union activists at the Service Employees International Union’s  convention on Monday.

Clinton told them the American economy and workplace have changed drastically in recent years, but too many of the policies that govern them haven’t.

She emphasized her support for worker-friendly policies like paid family leave, boosting the minimum wage, and equal pay for women.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather makes an announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Amidst tremendous uncertainty about its future existence, the Detroit Public Schools is trying to recruit teachers.

The district is holding a “DPS Day” recruitment fair for new teachers at Martin Luther King High School on Tuesday.

Officials admit that’s a challenging task when the district’s future is so insecure.

It’s waiting on state lawmakers to pass a huge aid package before it runs out of money altogether this summer.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather says the sooner Lansing can get that resolved, the better.

flickr user Bernt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit’s population has fallen to a level not seen since before 1920.

But there are signs that long-term trend has bottomed out.

According to the US Census Bureau’s latest estimate, Detroit’s population stood at just over 677,116 people last summer.

That means it’s no longer one of the 20 largest cities in the country.

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager, Steven Rhodes, met with the district’s elected board for the first time publicly Wednesday.

That board has been virtually powerless since emergency managers started running DPS in 2009.

Rhodes largely sat quietly, taking notes, as board members peppered him with questions about how the district got to the verge of bankruptcy. They’re pushing for a forensic audit of the district’s finances, particularly contracting practices, during the past seven years of state control.

flickr user Bernt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit is joining the growing list of U.S. cities that issue municipal ID cards to residents.

The Detroit City Council approved an ordinance that sets up a city-issued ID program Tuesday.

“It is the city's intent that municipal identification cards will provide residents with an additional means of proving their residency in the citv for purposes of accessing citv programs, services, and activities, and providing identification to law enforcement,” the ordinance states.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit police are about to start recording far more of what they do.

The Detroit City Council approved a $5.2 million contract for police body cameras and in-car video systems Tuesday.

The move has the support of Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and the city’s police unions.

Craig says the department just escaped more than a decade of federal oversight for unconstitutional policing practices. Now, the challenge is sustaining the progress it made.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools needs a financial lifeline from Lansing to keep going beyond this school year.

But efforts to get that done in the state Legislature have largely been hijacked by big donors with different views on a separate but related issue: oversight of the city’s charter schools.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

Contract talks between Detroit Public Schools teachers and the district’s emergency manager are on hold, and union leaders say that’s a mistake.

Contracts for DPS teachers and most other school employees expire June 30th.

Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes has said the district will delay collective bargaining until Lansing acts on legislation to prevent a DPS bankruptcy.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

A federal judge in Detroit heard arguments on a lawsuit stemming from the Flint water crisis Friday.

This lawsuit demands that the state and city to move faster — and do more than they’re currently doing — to make Flint’s water safe.

That includes replacing all the city’s lead service lines.

State lawyers said there are a number of reasons they shouldn’t have to go that far, including the fact that it would be costly.

Flint resident Melissa Mays is one plaintiff in the case.

The Carr Center's current home in Detroit's Harmonie Park.
Carr Center / via Facebook

A prominent Detroit arts organization is losing its home in a downtown neighborhood it helped revitalize.

The Carr Center has called a historic building in Detroit’s Harmonie Park area home since 2009.

The non-profit arts organization is focused on promoting and celebrating African and African-American arts and culture.

It’s been a vibrant spot, but struggled financially.

A building moral in Detroit's North End.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is changing.

Record-setting demolitions, new development and new transit projects are transforming the landscape in some parts of the city.

There’s excitement and unease as many Detroiters see change coming their way.

Michigan Radio visited one Detroit neighborhood right on the edge, and found a community on the way up – and hoping to control its own destiny.

If real estate is about location, location, location, North End has a lot going for it.

student at a desk raising hand
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The man behind a bribery-and-kickback scheme in Detroit Public Schools pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.

Norman Shy, 74, ran AllState Sales, a school supplies company.

Starting in 2009, federal prosecutors say he conspired with school principals and one DPS administrator to inflate invoices for at least five years.

During that time, Shy got paid at least $2.7 million for school supplies he never delivered, and shared those profits with school officials.

Alycia Meriweather announces the district's new offerings at Detroit's Cooke Elementary School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools is planning a dozen “innovative” new school programs for the fall.

They include Montessori programs, an Arabic dual language immersion school, expanded Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) offerings, new programs for English language learners, and more opportunities for outdoor experience and “place-based education,” among other things.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

With the Detroit Public Schools on the verge of financial collapse, many people want to know how things went so wrong.

Some teachers are trying to do something about that. They want a forensic audit of the district’s finances since it came under state emergency management in 2009.

A group of DPS teachers set up a lemonade stand near Detroit’s Eastern Market to raise money for the cause this weekend.

Blanche Jackson, right, with Rep. Sandy Levin. Jackson successfully appealed a finding of unemployment fraud, but the state still says she owes $4000.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, says the state needs to fix its “lawless” unemployment claims system, or risk losing federal money to administer the program.

The state switched to an automated claims processing system, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS), in 2013.

Since then, fraud claims have spiked. But many people say they’ve been falsely accused, and that the system for appealing is a nightmare.

Michigan state Capitol
User: mattileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A set of Republican-sponsored bills to fund and overhaul the Detroit Public Schools is being met with skepticism in the state Senate. The state House adopted the legislation in a marathon session that lasted until early this morning.

Highland Park municipal building
City of Highland Park

Southeast Michigan’s new regional water authority is asking for Governor Snyder’s “personal intercession and involvement” to resolve a billing dispute with the city of Highland Park.

Highland Park now owes the Great Lakes Water Authority nearly $30 million in water and sewer bills.

In a letter to the Governor last month, the GLWA board said the Authority’s other customer communities are growing “concerned and frustrated” as they’re forced to pick up Highland Park’s tab.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

Most Detroit teachers are expected back in the classroom Wednesday, after two straight days of teacher sickouts effectively shuttered the Detroit Public Schools.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers called for members to return to work, saying they’ve received written assurance from the district’s emergency manager that teachers will receive full pay for the school year.

The DFT had urged teachers to “sick out” in protest, after discovering just days earlier that DPS didn’t have the money to pay teachers who elect to spread their pay through the summer months.

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Nearly all Detroit Public Schools are closed again today, as too many teachers called in sick to protest being asked to work without guaranteed pay.

It's the second straight day almost all the district's 97 schools have been closed.

Teachers have known for months that Detroit Public Schools will run out of money after June 30, unless Michigan lawmakers approve hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term aid.

But anger boiled over when they found out just days ago that most teachers might not get paid their full salaries for the current school year.

Student performers at the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund dinner.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President took her through Detroit this weekend.

Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund dinner.

She said the kind of suffering seen in cities like Detroit and Flint are symbolic of communities across the country that are being “left out and left behind.”

Clinton, who has been vocal about the Flint water crisis since it started drawing national attention, called it “unacceptable.” But she also said there are “too many Flints in America.”

Detroit teachers protest during a January sickout.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For the first time in months, Detroit teachers are planning to hold a mass sickout Monday—and for the first time ever, union leaders are helping lead the call for it.

This comes after the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership informed members that many teachers could end up shorted on their pay this year.

The situation involves Detroit Public Schools staff who elect to be paid biweekly year-round, not just during the school year.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit water customers behind on their bills have one more day to set things straight — or possibly face having their service cut off.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is hosting a customer assistance fair on Saturday.

The idea is to provide a one-stop customer service blitz for the roughly 23,000 Detroiters who have defaulted on payment plans, or are otherwise delinquent on their bills.

DWSD director Gary Brown had this message for them: “You need to come into the fair and get current on your plan.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, left, with Noble Wray, head of the Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In the wake of two police shooting deaths, Dearborn Police will be getting some help from the U.S. justice department.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad reached out to the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) earlier this year.

Haddad says he did that after two high-profile police shootings in December and January, when Dearborn officers shot and killed two unarmed African Americans in separate incidents.

The former Hudson's site, prime real estate along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit, has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson's building was demolished in 1998.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An iconic spot in downtown Detroit is one step closer redevelopment.

The former Hudson’s department store has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson’s building was demolished in 1998.

But officials with Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority gave the tentative go-ahead for a new high-rise development there Wednesday.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the deal still needs a few final approvals. The City Council still needs to OK elements of the deal, including the transfer of the parking garage to the developer for $15 million.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit will start shutting off water to residential customers behind on their bills next week.

23,000 households that have defaulted on payment plans could face service interruption.

This is the third straight year that Detroit is pursuing its controversial, aggressive shutoff policy. Just a little over 23,000 households were shut off last year.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After working more than a month without contracts, unionized Detroit News and Free Press employees have ratified a new, three-year deal.

Detroit’s two major newspapers have different owners. But their business operations are run jointly through a joint operating agreement, with Free Press owner Gannett media company holding almost all the purse strings.

Berrien County Sheriff's office / via Facebook

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling paves the way for using “support dogs” in courtrooms.

The ruling stems from the case of a Berrien County man, Jordan Conrad Johnson, convicted of sexually abusing his young niece.

During his trial, the girl and her brother both testified accompanied by a black lab named Mr. Weeber.

The dogs are trained to calm and comfort vulnerable witnesses, particularly young children, and help them testify.

Robert Bobb helps student with homework
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In Detroit, 12 public school principals are accused of taking kickbacks on supplies that were never delivered.

The charges, announced late last month, pose another blow to the long-troubled Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term state aid if it wants to see another school year.

Here's how the alleged kickback scheme worked: 12 principals, all working separately, gave contracts for school supplies to a vendor, Norman Shy, who then kicked back some profits to them.

DTE Energy

Michigan’s US Senators want the Environmental Protection Agency to step in if the state doesn’t act on a plan to curb Wayne County air pollution soon.

In a letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy Friday, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters urged “swift completion” of that plan.

In 2013, part the county was found to be in “non-attainment” with new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was supposed to submit a plan to fix that to the EPA in April 2015. But to date, MDEQ still hasn’t done that.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

 Michigan’s state superintendent has outlined his “vision” for student assessments, and it seems like students might be in for more big changes.

Brian Whiston addressed lawmakers from two State House education panels Wednesday.

The state currently uses the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) to measure student achievement.

This is only the second year for the M-STEP, which students take in the spring.

But Whiston, who took over as state superintendent in July, advocates a different approach.

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